So while everybody is upset with the Texas Republicans and their lack of support for Planned Parenthood, I’ve been downloading more and more music. I understand music preferences are a matter of opinion, so take the following comments as you please. I downloaded the 2 Chainz album and within a day and a half I had threw it out the window…so if you know 2 Chainz personally, tell him that he owes me a blank CD, thanks. But after listening to it, I began to think about how he’s on EVERY song in rotation so I guess that means he makes hits…right? So I began to think about how to make it really simple for anybody to make a hit record because obviously the music execs are letting anybody do it these days.
Stop thinking about writing songs, and start writing songs. Don’t talk about it, be about it. You really want to be a famous star, don’t you? You daydream about being on stage and hearing the roar of the crowd. Only trouble is, gee whiz, you’re dreaming your life away. If you want to write a really good song, you’re going to have to work for it. Start today. Commit to writing a certain number of songs per week, the way successful authors commit to writing a thousand words a day.
Listen actively to a lot of different types of music. Good writers read several genres of books. Good songwriters listen to genres of songs. As you listen, think about what you like about a song. Are the lyrics unique, do the song’s chord changes perfectly capture a mood, do you like the transition from one part of the song to another?
Get technical. You don’t have to have a degree in music theory to write a good song, obviously, but you should have an understanding of how songs are built. This includes a basic understanding of harmony, melody, and rhythm. Harmony, having to do with chord arrangements having harmonic qualities that blend with both the rhythmic feel and the melody of the song. A beginner would want to look into basic major and minor keys and chords which pertain to the given key they are working in. The I IV and V chords of any key can be thought of as a meat and potatoes way of writing a song as these three chords will accompany any melody that stays within the given key. There are infinite ways to structure a song, but there’s a common sequence found in most of them. As you listen to songs, try to identify the different parts. Check yourself by looking at lyrics online or in a music book; the parts of songs are often labeled in these media.
Be ready when inspiration comes calling. Unfortunately, inspiration usually doesn’t strike at the most convenient times, so it’s important that you be able to remember each new song that pops into your head, no matter where you are. Carry a pen and paper with you wherever you go, or better yet, carry a tape recorder or digital audio recorder–melodies can be extremely difficult to capture on paper unless you have a strong music background.
Start with writing lyrics. Think about something that really touched you or changed your life. That special someone? A bully? A bad breakup? Think about it and describe it. How did that feel? Did it hurt? Does (s)he make you think about him/her all the time? Just start by thinking about personal experiences!
Figure out what you’ve got. Once in a while, inspiration will hit you like a full force gale, and suddenly you have a full song out of nowhere. Most of the time, however, just a small piece of a potential song will come to you, leaving you to do the hard, but fun work of fleshing it out. You should have a feel for what part of the song you’ve come up with.
- If it’s super catchy (either a lyrical phrase or a snippet of music), and you can envision it being a repeated theme in the song, you’ve got the refrain—the climax or summary of your musical story—and you need to write verses to explain how you know in detail.
- If what you’ve come up with, seems more narrative lyrically or subtler musically — a part of a story rather than the main idea — you’ve probably got a verse, and you’ll need to write the rest of the story (more verses) and, usually, a chorus.
Set the mood. Make sure your music fits the story. If it is sad, then you may want your melody to evoke sadness (by slowing it down or adding some minor chords, for example) or you might want to add a twist and combine sad lyrics to upbeat music in order to create a sense of tension and ambiguity.
Say something. A song can get by with poor lyrics, and you have a better chance of writing a really good song if your lyrics are great. This does not mean they have to be serious, but they should not be cliché or ho-hum. Write your lyrics as though you are talking to somebody who you want to impress or to someone toward whom you feel some sort of deep emotion.
Make your words sing. Lyrics can appeal to emotions, and they should also appeal to the ear. There are a few different ways to do this. Words should fit with a rhythm you are creating in the song, and the way these words sound play an important part as well. Some words sound smoother than others (for example, “cool breeze” sounds smoother than “frigid wind.”) Use the texture and character of words to add to the feeling of a song. Another useful tool for the song writer is rhyme. There are a variety of ways you can rhyme lines in a song to help tie the lyrics together. Learn about these and other tools of poetry, and try putting them to work for you.
Strike a balance between repetition and variety. Repetition is what makes a song catchy; repeated choruses, for example, stick in our heads even when the rest of a song does not. It is easy to ask people to join you in a refrain, which is why it is usually called a chorus. That’s why so many people know just a few lines of so many songs. While there are good songs that are so simple that they have no chorus and have the same line length, the same rhyme schemes, and the same chord progressions repeated throughout them, most people get bored with that. The most common way to add variety is to insert a bridge into your song.
Look for the hook. The hook is that elusive part of a great song that captures your very soul and makes you want to listen to that song over and over. Hooks are frequently found in the chorus and often become the title of the song. Sadly, there is no recipe for hooks, but you’ll know when you have one. Better yet, your friends will tell you, because it is the part of a song they can not seem to get out of their head.
Smooth the rough edges. If the pieces do not fit together, try building a transition. Put all the sections of your song in the same key. If your song suddenly changes in tempo (speed) between the two parts, try gradually changing the speed as you enter and exit the section that does not fit with the rest of the song. Try adding a short instrumental interlude that will carry you from one part to the next. While it is possible that two parts should not be in the same song, it could be that you started one part with the wrong meter or wrong kind of beat.
Get feedback. Play or sing your song for people and get their opinions. You’ll probably get a better idea of what they really think after you’ve written a few songs: friends and family may tell you that your first song is great even if it’s awful, but as they hear more of your songs, they’ll probably give you hints like, “It’s good, but I liked that first one you wrote better” or “Wow, that’s the best song you’ve written. That’s a really good song.” Be prepared for a critic in the family that will accept nothing less than to hear it post-produced with all the bells and whistles that a band in a studio can offer.
Once you’ve finished your first song, don’t stop. Keep writing and practicing, and you’ll find yourself getting better and better. You may need to write a lot of songs before you hit on one you really like, and even after that, you may need to write a lot more before you get another good one. Work hard and have fun doing it!
While I think Mr. Chains skipped quite a few of these steps, I respect the hustle, just not the man. Good luck & God speed.
Are there any songs on the radio that you think you could have made 10x’s better? Would ever try to make a song in life? If you had a chance to be a star would you take it? What would your stage name be? Do you think this formula would make you a hit record? Do you feel old because you can only take so much of these new “hip hop” songs?
And I’ll leave you with this…my current jamma.
Thanks for tuning in….